International Women in Engineering Day – Joanie

International Women in Engineering Day – Joanie

On 23 June 2019, businesses across the world celebrated International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), the global awareness campaign that celebrates women in engineering, a typically male-dominated profession.

This year was particularly special as it was also the celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the Women’s Engineering Society. To highlight the importance of this event, we’ve interviewed two female engineers working in the Mpac Langen team. We spoke to them about their careers in engineering and the obstacles that they have faced. We hope that sharing these stories will help encourage girls to consider a career in engineering.

ne of the two women we spoke to is Joanie Kloppenburg, a 21-year old Construction Sheetmetal Worker/Welder working in the production team at our Wijchen factory in the Netherlands. Joanie is very passionate about her work. This is her story…

“My nephews suggested becoming an underwater welder as they knew that diving is one of my hobbies.”

Joanie has worked for Mpac Langen for three years now, but her passion for engineering started long before she joined us. Joanie has always been a practical person, and this influenced the choices she made at school. When she was 14, she came into contact with the technology sector for the first time. “I wanted to land a job where I could make money fast to help my parents out,” says Joanie. “My nephews suggested that I become an underwater welder as they knew that diving is one of my hobbies. I researched this thoroughly and discovered that, yes you do earn a lot of money – quickly, but it’s also a very dangerous job. But I was still really interested in welding and so I started to research the path that I could take to achieve a career in this industry.”

Joanie’s interest was awakened, but the decision to work in the technology sector was made a reality when she worked on a school project where she had to research a problem in society. Joanie continues, “My classmates were choosing common topics, such as antisocial behaviour and alcohol problems, but I wanted to do something different. I decided to go for women in engineering. I discovered that a lot of women were engineers during World War II and I thought that was so special. It seemed that more women than men were in engineering during that time and they were a big inspiration to me.”

At college, Joanie was the only girl in her class and the boys weren’t enthusiastic to work with her. “Most of my classmates didn’t think I was able to handle work that was mainly done by men. I constantly had to prove myself and that is the only thing I don’t like in this industry – constantly having to prove that I am good enough. The study was really focused on theory, so I switched to a study where I would be able to gain working experience by learning on the job. This meant that I could go to school for two days in the week and work the other three days at a real company.”

This is where Joanie was faced with a real barrier to entering the industry. She applied to many companies and after several phone calls and interviews with negative outcomes, she almost gave up. “After being rejected so many times, I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision to pursue a career in engineering,” says Joanie. “I invested a lot of time and effort, and it looked like it was all for nothing. The reason I heard over and over again was that they weren’t sure if I was able to handle the ‘hard work’.

“During one of the interviews, I had to stamp a serial number in metal. I wanted to prove that I could do it so I used all of my power. When the hammer hit the object – it was silent for a few seconds. The number was slammed in the metal perfectly and I received compliments as not a lot of students were able to do it properly first time. I was confident that I would get the job, but it wasn’t good enough according to that company. I still think that the decision was because I am female,” she added.

Joanie switched back to her college studies to gain her diploma. After a few weeks, she received a call from her former mentor asking if she was still looking for a position in a company. “Of course I was,” she said, “I wanted to gain valuable experience instead of learning from books. That company was Mpac Langen. They didn’t consider the fact that I was female, they just wanted good, motivated engineers.

“After two or three weeks, my colleagues were asking if I could make or adjust products for them,” explains Joanie. “My colleagues see that I really enjoy what I do and that I am good too. I only work directly with men, but I don’t mind. I am used to their humour and they don’t see me as anything less because I am a woman. My experiences at Mpac have been really positive, they support equality in the workplace and I am not treated any differently because I’m a woman. I know I have the same opportunities as my colleagues.”

‘There is no way that I would leave this job.’

Joanie is determined to work for Mpac for a long time. She is very committed to her job, something that her fiancé can confirm. “This job is an excellent base from which to grow,” explains Joanie. “I want to do as many courses as I can so I can develop myself at Mpac. I know there are great things ahead of me. My fiancé is originally from Groningen which is about 200 km from Wijchen. I told him there is no way that I would leave this job, so he moved across the country so that we could be together.”

Finally, Joanie wants to leave a message for girls who are not yet sure what they want to become: “If young girls are reading this, I want to tell them to make their own decisions and follow their heart. Never give up, because only then will you achieve what you really want!”

Want to learn more about other inspiring women in engineering? Read Yoselyn’s story.

Posted by Simon Mason